By Dr. Cory Couillard
Scientists have known for some time that a full stomach is only part of what causes someone to be satisfied after a meal. To achieve a full feeling, one’s body relies on hormones and stretch receptors to say ‘stop eating’.
Eating too fast has been found to be an important indicator in consuming too many units of energy, weight gain and is pivotal in the development of noncommunicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
A new study found people who eat at a slower rate are able to control their energy intake and stay satisfied for a longer period of time.
“Slowing the speed of eating may help to lower energy intake and suppress hunger levels, and may even enhance the enjoyment of a meal,” says lead author Meena Shah, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Texas Christian University.
When eating more slowly, participants also consumed more water and reported feeling less hunger for a longer period of time after the meal was over. A major hormone that is affected by eating too fast is called leptin.
Leptin is produced in one’s fat cells and is delivered to the brain to regulate fat burning, hunger, cravings and the sense of being full. Other research suggests that leptin also interacts with a neurotransmitter called dopamine.
Dopamine is associated with a feeling of pleasure after eating. The theory is that, by eating too quickly, people do not give these hormones enough time to work.
It often takes about 20 minutes for one’s brain and stomach to register feelings of fullness. Without the full signals, one is much more likely to overeat. To remain full for several hours it is important to eat sufficient amounts of good fats.
Foods such as avocado, seeds and nuts like almonds, cashews and peanuts are full of healthy fats. Fruits, vegetables, pulses (legumes) and whole grains are generally low in energy and rich in vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients needed to keep one’s body satisfied and full.
Studies confirm that eating too many high-starch, high-glycaemic, low-fibre carbohydrates can cause one to be continuously hungry and gain weight.
These are characteristically found in highly processed, convenience food items. Learn to eat more slowly if you have a tendency to eat quickly.
Try putting your fork down between bites, this can help to extend the amount of time you eat. As you eat, focus on the tastes of the food and enjoy them, which can help you eat more slowly.
It is often difficult to eat slower and take smaller bites, especially when you are busy or famished. Regardless of how you go about it, slowing down your eating is a great resolution to make.
The writer is an international health columnist that works in collaboration with the World Health Organization's goals of disease prevention and control. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement